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May 23, 2018

Wayback: Web prospect put songs in hearts

Web GuitarEarlier this week, a call went out for musicians who know the HP 3000. The June reunion of 3000 experts and veterans includes a couple of notable ex-HP members, GM Harry Sterling and former songwriter/engineer Orly Larson. Dave Wiseman, who's leading the band on the June 23 afternoon, has asked around to see if anyone will bring an instrument to accompany Orly's 3000 songs.

That request brought a guitar to mind in a happy time for the 3000. George Stachnik strummed one on Navy Pier in the steamy air of August to lead the 3000 faithful at the 1997 Interex show in Chicago. That was a summer of some hope and relief, too.

In 1997 the fate of the 3000 was brightening. Much of the middle 1990s was a slow time for the rate of MPE/iX enhancements. Once the World Wide Web, as we first called it, broke through in 1995, every computing platform needed to have a story about how the WWW was employed. IBM's AS/400 and Digital's VMS didn't have stories any better than MPE's. That didn't matter as much to customers using those systems. Theirs were not under the gun like the 3000 was, trying to outpace HP-UX and Windows NT in the HP salesforce.

Stachnik strummed and we perspired on Navy Pier, the Chicago venue where the 3000's 25th Anniversary party was being held. He'd passed out the songsheets and I looked around the crowd. Those who weren't singing along were grinning. Your average datacenter manager is less likely to sing in public, but the songs were in the air as Stachnik delivered them with gusto. 

The smiles were as wide as Lake Michigan at HP World, faces beaming with the hope that only HP could bring to the party. I hadn't seen such good feeling since 1991, the year after the Boston Interex uprising. Sure, it was fun celebrating the 25th birthday of the HP 3000 out on the end of Navy Pier on the first night of the show. But the real celebration started the next day, when the HP 3000 division showed its customers proof that the HP 3000 has a real future.

Y2K was already warming the mid-'97 air. First it had driven up wages and contracts for 3000 experts, and then HP announced it would have a Web server for sale on MPE/iX. Programmers with nothing but good COBOL skills could command $55 an hour and Southwest Airlines was frustrated: it couldn't find administrators for its 3000s, whose footprint was growing there.

The future wasn't so bright there was a commitment to make MPE/iX ready for the new Merced chip architecture that was HP's next step for enterprise systems. The 3000 was getting some Internet attention at last, though. Some of that engineering is still ready for today's networking prime time, too.

HP showed off the Internet capabilities of MPE/iX at the Internet World show in March of 1997. The demonstration helped to prove that e-commerce solutions like Ecometry (nee Smith-Gardner MACS) were a good fit on the 3000. 

Engineering like inetd and FTP came on board in the late 1990s as the 3000 caught up. While the DNS services and the Apache Web server aren't of much use today, other software is still at work. More importantly, the consistency of a toolset between Linux and MPE/iX gives the older 3000 credibility. HP summed up the available services in a white paper (link courtesy 3k Ranger). The paper included the table below.

3000 Internet service capability

08:18 AM | Permalink

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